Thankfully it is game on tonight after this weekend’s double header was originally cancelled due to the current labour disruption between the City and its unionized workers that includes staff at the Coliseum. Prior to Saturday’s one-day work stoppage, the Spruce Kings, the Chilliwack Chiefs and the BCHL agreed that the games would have to be cancelled and rescheduled.
The double header is now on for Sunday and Monday nights in the Prince George Coliseum. The game tonight is also the “Drop the Gloves and Sock it to ‘Em” game with fans being able to throw new socks, gloves and toques in a plastic bag onto the ice after the Spruce Kings score their first goal.
Clothing items along with non-perishable food items will be donated to the less fortunate and homeless in our downtown through the St. Vincent de Paul Society. This particular fundraiser is one that is greatly appreciated by St. Vincent de Paul and the team continues to support the Society by also having players and coaching staff help serve meals at the shelter.
The Spruce Kings have been idle with an eight day break between games while the Chilliwack Chiefs welcomed the extra day off before having to venture North. The Chiefs played on Friday night and were originally scheduled to drive to Prince George Saturday morning for a game that night. With the change in dates, the Chiefs players were given an extra day to prepare for their game in Prince George.
The Spruce Kings last played in Coquitlam on Friday December 6th where they suffered a 6-3 loss to the Express. Prince George (18-10-2-2) still sits in second place in the Mainland Division with five games in hand on the front running Langley Rivermen (22-11-1-3) who have an eight point cushion on the Spruce Kings prior to start of the game in Prince George. The Coquitlam Express (16-15-0-2) are in third place with 34 points followed by the Surrey Eagles (14-19-1-0) and the Chilliwack Chiefs (7-23-1-2).
The Chiefs come in to the game on an eight game losing skid and will be looking to use the favour of an extra day to their advantage. Chilliwack has made some minor changes to their roster since the last time they played the Spruce Kings but they also have been forced to fill a few holes with affiliate players tonight.
The Spruce Kings are a healthier bunch with all players available to play tonight. Bryant Christian will be making his return to home ice for the first time since October 26th when he suffered a broken jaw. A newcomer to the team making his debut on home ice is Marco Ballarin. Acquired on December 1st, Ballarin has looked good in his first two games with his new team picking up a goal and two assists in two games versus the Coquitlam Express.
Other players to watch tonight from Prince George include the usuals this season. Chad Staley continues to lead the team with 35 points (16G, 19A) followed by his long time linemate going back to their playing days in Wenatchee, Jeremiah Luedtke has 30 points (8G, 22A). Brent Lashuk (8G, 15A) will take up the side on that line as these three get reunited for the first time in a few weeks. Justin Rai (4G, 11A), Bryant Christian (5G, 10A) and Jake LeBrun (11G, 9A) will also be looking to recreate some of their magic from earlier this season tonight.
From the blue line, Christian Weidauer (9G, 18A) continues to be a contributor offensively and is among the League's top three offensive defencemen. Carter Cochrane (12G, 17A) of the Chilliwack Chiefs is also up in the list with the second best offensive numbers for those players that patrol the blue line. The only other player on the Chilliwack squad with better numbers than Cochrane is Austin Plevy. The Chilliwack Chiefs captain leads the teams with both goals and assists at 14 and 20 respectfully.
Alex Murray is expected to get the start in goal for the Spruce Kings, making this his fourth consecutive start. Murray is ranked among the League's best netminders with a goals against average of 2.50 and a save percentage of .912. Josh Halpenny will get the start for the Chilliwack Chiefs, his numbers aren't nearly as good but he has shown an ability to post similar numbers to those of Murray's.
The mitigating factor in tonight's game might very well be the one day off and how that affects each team. For Chilliwack it is seen as an advantage and an extra day to make their way to Prince George. For the Spruce Kings, they will have to show that they to used the day off wisely. The key for both teams will be to start early. An early start for the visitors will take the fans out of the game, while an early start for the Spruce Kings will lead to the showering of clothing items for the St. Vincent de Paul Society and an additional time out for both teams.
Tonight's game is a 7pm start with the game broadcast live online. The pay-per-view feed is available through Fasthockey.com and the free audio only webcast can be found on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.